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Production Manager Career Guide

What is a production manager?

A production manager oversees the manufacturing process within a company and ensures that production lines run smoothly and efficiently. They play a vital role in any business involved in producing goods, from food and medication to cars and electronic devices. Their overall goal is to ensure that goods are produced at the right quality and in a timely, cost-effective manner.

In carrying out these responsibilities, these managers orchestrate a range of activities. These include planning production schedules, evaluating performance, and addressing any staffing or machinery issues that could impact the end product. Therefore, this role contributes significantly to the success of a company’s production objectives and overall business goals.

Duties and responsibilities

A production manager is responsible for ensuring the effectiveness of production experiences. This responsibility involves managing production schedules to ensure goods are delivered on time and liaising with other departments, such as sales and procurement, to understand demand and supply needs. They also oversee quality assurance, inspecting the goods produced, and enforcing health and safety regulation compliance in their area of supervision.

Risk management is another key duty. They must anticipate potential problems that could disrupt the production process and develop contingency plans to address them. Additionally, these professionals look at ways to improve production processes to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and better meet the expectations and needs of customers and the broader organization.

Work environment

A production manager generally works within a factory or plant setting where goods are manufactured. The environment can be bustling and may require them to be on their feet often. Depending on the industry, they may need protective clothing or equipment to comply with safety regulations, especially if dealing with heavy machinery or hazardous substances.

Their work environment can also be demanding. They may have to address unexpected issues, such as equipment breakdowns or delays in material supplies, which could affect the production process. Their work often involves interacting with a diverse group of people, including production associates, other managers, and possibly clients or vendors. They need to maintain clear and effective communication in such settings.

Typical work hours

Production managers typically work full time, and the specifics of their schedule can depend on the nature of their industry and company. They generally adhere to a standard 40-hour work week, but they may need to work extra hours when deadlines are tight, or emergencies occur. This job can also involve working during evenings and weekends, depending on the production schedule.

In some cases, especially in industries that operate around the clock, like food processing or healthcare equipment production, these managers may have to work in shifts. They may also be on-call to handle unforeseen challenges that might disrupt the production process. As a managerial position, it requires flexibility and the ability to respond quickly to different situations.

How to become a production manager

This career guide section outlines the process of becoming a production manager. The key steps span from early career decisions around university education and internships to mid-career considerations and industry certifications.

Step 1: Complete high school or equivalent

The primary step for becoming a production manager involves completing high school or its equivalent. Particular attention should be given to subjects such as mathematics, English, and science, as these are fundamental in this profession.

Step 2: Obtain a bachelor’s degree

The next step toward this career path is to obtain a bachelor’s degree. While a degree in any field can potentially lead to a career in production management, degrees in business management, industrial technology, or manufacturing engineering are particularly well-suited for this job title.

Step 3: Gain industry experience

As with many jobs, industry experience is invaluable. Irrespective of the chosen degree path, obtaining an internship or entry-level job in a production or manufacturing company will vastly increase your understanding of production processes, personnel management, and industry standards.

Step 4: Acquire job-specific skills

These professionals do not solely rely on the knowledge acquired from a degree but also on practical, job-specific skills. These include knowledge of specific manufacturing processes, proficiency with certain software or machinery, project management skills, and leadership abilities. Some of these skills can be earned on the job, while others may require formal training.

Step 5: Obtain certifications

Having reached this point, it may be beneficial to begin working toward industry-specific certifications. These are not always required, but they showcase additional commitment and expertise to potential employers. Certificates like Certified Production Technician (CPT) or Project Management Professional (PMP) are recommended.

Step 6: Progress to management roles

Once a solid foundation in the industry has been built, and a degree of expertise has been achieved, the final step is to seek management positions. This could mean applying to such positions externally or seeking promotions within a current place of employment.

How much do production managers make?

Production manager salaries vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. Factors such as experience in managing complex production processes, proficiency in relevant software, and the capacity to improve efficiency and reduce costs largely impact their compensation.

Highest paying industries

  • Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing – $115,070
  • Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing – $114,120
  • Oil and Gas Extraction – $113,660
  • Computer and Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing – $113,460
  • Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing – $111,440

Highest paying states

  • New Jersey – $125,470
  • Washington – $123,720
  • Connecticut – $120,540
  • Rhode Island – $119,370
  • California – $118,440

Browse production manager salary data by market

Types of production managers

Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for production managers. This section aims to equip you with a broad understanding of the distinctive roles within this professional sphere, providing a basis for sound career decision-making.

Manufacturing production manager

Operating predominantly within the manufacturing sector, professionals in this role oversee the production process to ensure it runs smoothly and effectively. Their duties often include managing staff, organizing schedules, maintaining equipment, and quality assurance. An understanding of the manufacturing process and excellent organizational skills are key to success in this role.

Film production manager

In the entertainment industry, these production managers play a critical role in creating films and television shows. Their main responsibility is to manage the logistical facets of a project. This might include securing locations, arranging schedules, overseeing permits, and managing the budget. Interpersonal skills, attention to detail, and the ability to work under pressure are all essential in this field.

Food production manager

This category of production managers works primarily in the food industry. Tasks in this role may encompass overseeing the production process, enforcing food safety standards, ensuring quality control, coordinating facility maintenance, and handling staff management. A solid understanding of food manufacturing and health regulations, as well as excellent managerial skills, are highly desirable attributes for this role.

Construction production manager

Working primarily in the building industry, these individuals oversee various construction projects. Their tasks include coordinating with site crews, ensuring compliance with safety standards, overseeing project timelines, and managing resources and budget allocations. Successful professionals in this role must thoroughly understand project management principles, construction processes, regulations, and safety guidelines.

Pharmaceutical production manager

These professionals work in pharmaceutical production settings, supervising the manufacture of medicinal products. Their duties usually include the management of production schedules, quality control, verifying compliance with regulatory standards, and overseeing inventory management. This role requires comprehensive knowledge of pharmaceutical manufacturing processes, excellent managerial skills, and a deep understanding of regulatory guidelines pertaining to the pharmaceutical industry.

Top skills for production managers

This section highlights the skills and traits that will lead to career success as a production manager. They need to have various skills ranging from leadership abilities to problem-solving capabilities.

Leadership skills

Effective leadership is key in this role. As a leader, you’ll be responsible for managing a team, coordinating tasks, and guiding your team toward fulfilling objectives. Strong leadership skills facilitate better team productivity and job satisfaction.

Problem-solving abilities

In production, unforeseen issues are almost inevitable. Your ability to identify problems promptly and devise efficient solutions significantly impacts the smooth running of operations. Hence, an adept problem solver often excels in this role.

Knowledge of quality control processes

Ensuring that the final product meets the required quality standards is a critical aspect of the role. Therefore, a deep understanding of quality control processes is paramount for the success of not just the manager but also the entire production process.

Technical skills

Production environments today involve the use of various technologies. Familiarity with these and the ability to adapt to new technologies is a valuable trait for these professionals. This skill also includes an understanding of production processes and machinery.

Supply chain and logistics understanding

This role involves coordinating with supply chains and managing logistics. This requires understanding the flow of goods from suppliers to consumers and managing relationships with vendors and suppliers effectively.

Pressure management

Meeting deadlines and handling emergencies can come with significant pressure. One’s ability to stay calm and make sound decisions during high-tension moments is a valuable trait in this role. This includes the ability to handle stress and maintain composure under pressure.

Interpersonal skills

You will interact with people at all levels, from your team members to suppliers, clients, and company executives. Having strong interpersonal skills helps in managing these interactions effectively and positively.

Production manager career path

Starting as a production manager, you are in a leading role in the manufacturing process, with several opportunities ahead for growth and development. Being in this position is not the end of the line, but rather it’s the start of a promising journey into executive management levels, where you could advance and expand your leadership skills in the years to come.

Assistant plant manager

A reasonable step forward is moving into the role of an assistant plant manager. This role demands more responsibilities and provides a broader understanding of plant operations, but it also brings opportunities to influence the proliferation and efficiency of the plant. It’s also a stepping stone toward becoming a plant manager, which is an executive-level position.

Plant manager

Once you’ve gained experience and showcased your abilities as assistant plant manager, you could potentially advance to the role of plant manager. In this advanced role, you would have the topmost authority within the manufacturing plant, possessing the discretion to make substantial decisions regarding the company’s operations and the employees under your command. This role requires a high level of experience and leadership skills and will put you in a strategic position for your career progression.

Operations manager

Another promising opportunity lies in the transition to an operations manager position, where you oversee the operations across various plants or facilities. This would be a high-level role where your responsibilities would not be confined to a single plant but encompass a more extensive range of operations. The skills learned in previous roles will be vital in this position as you’ll decide the strategies and operations plans for multiple sites.

Plant director

Ultimately, your journey could lead you to the role of a plant director. This position is one of the highest levels you can reach within the operations side of a company. In such a prestigious role, you’ll lead a collection of plant managers and oversee the functioning of entire regions or nationwide operations. You’ll decide on strategic expansion, maintenance, and productivity approaches. It’s a multi-faceted role, allowing you to apply the skills you’ve earned over your progression path and influence the direction of the company’s operations on a grand scale.

The production management field continues to experience dynamic changes as technologies and methodologies evolve. In recent years, a defining trend within this sphere has been the incorporation of technology to enhance efficiency and productivity. Advanced software, robotics, and artificial intelligence have emerged as keys to modern production processes. They’re helping managers streamline operations, monitor productivity, and improve overall efficiency. Also, sustainability and circular economy approaches are increasingly important in this profession as companies seek to reduce waste and promote environmentally friendly practices.

In addition, the role has increasingly embraced elements of leadership and people management. It’s no longer just about overseeing the production process from a technical standpoint but also motivating and engaging the production team members. The aspect of cultivating a positive work culture and maintaining high employee morale has thus become a significant part of the production management responsibility.

Employment projections for production managers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, production manager roles are projected to grow slower than average. Employment is expected to grow by 3% through 2031, which is slower than the average for all occupations. This slow growth can be attributed to continuous improvements in productivity and increasing automation that reduces the demand for these managers. Despite this, job opportunities are expected to be good due to the need to replace managers who retire or leave the profession.

Production manager career tips

Build a professional network

Networking is vital in this career path. Making connections in the industry can introduce you to new opportunities and result in exchanges of ideas to fuel innovation. Attending industry events such as trade shows or seminars can bridge gaps and enhance collaboration. Here are some relevant professional organizations:

  • American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS)
  • National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
  • Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME)

Stay updated with industry trends

Production management is a rapidly evolving field. Staying updated with the latest manufacturing techniques, automation technology, or lean production principles can enhance your effectiveness. Subscribing to industry publications, setting Google Alerts for specific production-related keywords, and attending relevant webinars or workshops can help keep you informed.

Pursue continuous learning

The industry is always evolving, and keeping up with these changes requires a commitment to constant learning. Consider the following options for continuous learning:

  • Enroll in workshops or online courses focused on production management
  • Get certification programs such as Certified Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) or Certified in Logistics, Transportation, and Distribution (CLTD)
  • Read books on lean manufacturing, supply chain, and operations management

Adopt leadership skills

In production management, you must lead a team and coordinate activities to meet production goals. Developing good leadership skills, including delegation, decision-making, and conflict resolution, can improve the productivity of your team and contribute to the success of the production process.

Improve communication abilities

Clear and effective communication skills are very important in this position. Facilitating understanding between different departments, such as procurement, warehouse, and quality assurance, can streamline the production workflow and avoid misunderstandings that could lead to avoidable delays.

Where the production manager jobs are

Top employers

  • General Motors
  • Ford
  • Tesla
  • Boeing
  • Microsoft

Top states

  • California
  • Michigan
  • Ohio
  • Texas
  • Indiana

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Monster
  • CareerBuilder


What are the crucial skills needed for a production manager?

Key skills for this role include leadership, effective team management, multi-tasking, and problem-solving. Proficiency in using production management software is often required. You should also have a good understanding of customer needs and an ability to translate these needs into production requirements.

What sort of responsibility will I hold as a production manager?

In this role, you’ll supervise and coordinate the production process, ensuring that products are made correctly and on schedule. This includes overseeing the entire production process from planning, procurement, manufacturing, and final quality control.

What challenges might I face as a production manager?

As in any managerial role, there can be significant challenges, including staffing issues, budget constraints, and unpredictable problems in the production process. You’ll often be required to make tough decisions under high-stress conditions. Effective communication and problem-solving skills are key to overcoming these challenges.

What can I do to prepare myself for a career as a production manager?

Studying business or industrial management in college is a good start. To complement your formal education, gain hands-on experience in a production environment. Many successful managers start in entry-level positions and work their way up, learning the specifics of the industry from the ground up.

What environments are common for a production manager?

Different industries will have distinct environments. They often work in factories, workshops, or production floors but can also work in an office setting, depending on the industry. This role typically involves interacting with engineers, line workers, and other administrative personnel regularly.

What kind of work-life balance can I expect as a production artist?

The work-life balance can vary, depending on the industry and specific company. Some positions may require availability outside of typical work hours to handle urgent issues in the production process. Good time management and the ability to delegate effectively can help maintain a healthy work-life balance.

What is the typical career progression for a production manager?

There is a diverse career path for production management. You may start in an assistant role, move up to a supervisor, and eventually become a full-fledged manager. With further experience and qualifications, you could even progress to a director or executive level.

What kind of decision-making responsibilities will I hold as a production manager?

You will make decisions on a wide range of matters. From determining the work schedule to aligning production with company goals, selecting the best manufacturing strategies to resolving conflicts among team members, the decisions you make can influence the entire operation process.

Are there any certifications that could improve my suitability for a production manager role?

Several organizations offer certifications. For example, the Association for Operations Management (APICS) provides the Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) certification. While not always required, such certifications can boost your skills and prove your expertise to potential employers.